New Year – New Cosplay – Why I made an Ace Frehley Costume

Why did Bronx author James Hannon make a cosplay of KISS member and famous Ducky Boy Ace Frehley, when he wasn’t a fan of KISS? Read on…

In case you didn’t know, I premiered a new cosplay on New Years Day 2019. This new one was Ace Frehley the Spaceman from the original lineup of KISS – or at least it was supposed to be. After all was said and done, I looked more like Tommy Thayer who is the current KISS guitarist who is wearing the Spaceman makeup. But more on that later.


So, this was a big surprise to my friends who know me and know that I was never really a big KISS fan. Sure I knew their music and gimmick and it wasn’t bad. My sister owned the KISS Alive II LP until I stole it from her. And I also bought the KISS Platinum 8-track tape (still have both of them).

But the real reason I did not want to be a fan is that when I was a kid, the biggest KISS fan in my circle of acquaintances was a pariah in the neighborhood because he was the “smelly kid”. Its not that he was unclean, but whatever detergent his mom used had a horrible stench that was just unbearable to be around. I realize that isn’t PC in today’s world, but this was the 1970s and most in my group hadn’t even turned 13 yet. The bottom line is that we didn’t want to be associated with him – and liking KISS was a sure fire way to do that. So KISS fandom was always downplayed.

When I got to senior year of college in 1989, I got into Ace Frehley a little bit. He was out of KISS for a while by this time and performing solo. Gordon G. G. Gebert was a friend of a friend of mine, and Gordon was good friends with Ace at the time. I was part of a software sharing group and Ace was looking for a particular piece of software which I had. So I shared it with Gordon to give to Ace, hoping to meet the big man eventually. But it never happened as Ace and Gordon had a big falling out shortly after. But I did learn more about Ace’s music during the time. And realized it was ok to like Ace’s music again since the smelly kid was long out of the picture.

Flash-forward to 2005, and I was starting to do research into a documentary I was planning on the real life gangs of the Wanderers movie. This video project would eventually become my book Lost Boys of the Bronx: The Oral History of the Ducky Boys Gang. In my initial round of research, I found out that Ace Frehley grew up a couple of blocks away from me (Marion Avenue and 201st Street in the Bronx), and was a member of the infamous Ducky Boys. After all this, I figured Ace Frehley was destined to be a factor in my life “somehow”.

I reached out to his manager, and I had about an hour-long phone conversation with Ace one day. I told him about my project, and what I found in my research about where his old friends in the Ducky Boys ended up. At the end of the call, I asked him if I could film a short interview with him for the documentary, but he shut me down hard asking for a $10,000 appearance fee – which was way more than I could afford, so we parted ways.

When my documentary eventually turned into the book, some doors were opened for me. I received permission from Gordon Gebert to use a section of his KISS AND TELL book where Ace’s buddy Bobby McAdams talked about Ace’s involvement in the Ducky Boys. It wasn’t the optimal choice, but I had no choice but to cover Ace’s involvement. For months after going public with my project, I was getting dozens of emails a week from people telling me that Ace Frehley was a Ducky Boy. I still get occasional emails from people telling me this – LIKE I DON’T ALREADY KNOW BY NOW! LOL

James and Jeff Hornlien meeting a un-enthusiastic Ace Frehley in 2008

In late 2008, shortly before the Lost Boys of the Bronx was released, I finally got to meet Ace at a local Chiller convention. I was even wearing a Ducky Boys shirt which one of his friends/handlers LOVED, but Ace didn’t even seem to recognize it or remember the conversation we had. Supposedly this was during his sober days, but he really seemed out of it. Not just to me, but everyone in the line. All he did was grunt and put his thumb up when taking the picture with me and my friend Jeff Hornlien. I was bummed for me, but even more so for Jeff (and all the other people there) who grew up idolizing this guy. Jeff is an extremely talented guitarist who learned to play because he was inspired by Ace and KISS. It was sad.

Figuring the Ace connection was completely dead at this point, I moved on and did other stuff – like write the book Anatomy of a Cosplayer: Tales from Behind the Mask. I met a lot of other cosplayers in my travels, and this one particular Batman costumer named Ed Universo lived in my town, and we became good friends. At one convention, he showed up in a full Gene Simmons Demon costume – and it was amazing. He asked if Jeff and I were willing to do a Halloween appearance with him in his personal KISS costumes. We couldn’t make Halloween but the thought was planted in my head.

And not just my head…. Jeff Hornlien completely wanted to costume as Paul Stanley at a convention… And he wouldn’t let it go. He kept bugging me so I had to do “something” to shut him up.

The big objection for me was “Dude, theres no way I’ll be able to walk in those heels!” Well Ed, brought over his personal Ace boots for me to walk around in, and you know what? They weren’t that hard to walk in! And I kinda liked being 6-7 inches taller…. So I started thinking about it more and more…

And then Ed sent me a link to someone selling an Ace Frehley Destroyer era costume. And well that was all I needed to know. The die was cast and my fate as the Spaceman was sealed!

While waiting for the costume to arrive, I attempted the Ace Frehley makeup. I got the specifics from a YouTube video, and gave it a shot.

First attempt at Ace Frehley makeup

And it didn’t come out too bad. Sure, there were some issues, but I spoke to Ed and he suggested different makeup to try for next time.

Which leads us to New Years Day 2019. With the new costume in hand, and the right makeup, I decided that I couldn’t wait for the next convention to premiere this costume and posted on social media….

So far the response has been great. I realized that I don’t look that much like Ace Frehley with my facial structure, but I can definitely see a strong resemblance to Tommy Thayer – so making lemonade out of lemons, we’re going with that!

Now for the second part of my plan…. Not going to give it away here, but there will be others involved…. And all I can say is you shouldn’t have let me start this mission…. There is only one way to finish it…

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James Hannon, Jeff Hornlien, Jackie Hannon and Ed Universo
James Hannon, Jeff Hornlien, Jackie Hannon and Ed Universo
James Hannon as Kiss Spaceman and Bronx Ducky Boys member Ace Frehley on New Years Day 2019

Rest in Peace “Mean” Gene Okerlund 1942-2019

So I was writing a piece about my newest New Years 2019 cosplay today when I got a heartbreaking Breaking News indicator on my phone that “Mean” Gene Okerlund passed away. So I decided to switch gears and write this remembrance of Gene instead.

Details of his passing were pretty sparse at this writing, but I knew he had been sick for a while and it was said that he had two kidney transplants recently.

I recently met Mean Gene on November 9th, 2018 at a local comic shop in Northern New Jersey. He was unable to stand for pictures due to “pulling his back that morning”, but I noticed that one of his hands was really swollen. I had hoped it was all part of something temporary. But looking back knowing he passed away today, I guess it was all part of something else. But enough of that – I’d rather talk about the good times.

“Mean” Gene was a laughable nickname for Gene Okerlund. He was one of the friendliest people ever – you could tell it by his WWF/WWE interviews. Anybody who has ever met him will agree that he was the opposite of mean. Funny thing is that he got that name from Jesse “the Body” Ventura, and I was cosplaying as former Minnesota Governor Ventura when I met him.

My wife, Jackie and I have been fans of WWF wrestling since the 70s and 80s. Like me, her brother watched wrestling all the time when he was a kid, so she watched a lot of it with him. And when I came into her life in 1984, we would watch it together. Mean Gene was all over the WWF back then and Mean Gene was her favorite character. For still unknown reasons, she nicknamed Mean Gene “Briefcase” – and the name just stuck.

Flash forward many years, and my friend Sean Wolfe mentioned that Mean Gene would be appearing at a comic shop in Ramsey, NJ called Gotham Underground. And my wife and I decided to go. But it was a heavily raining Friday night, and traffic was horrible. We had debated skipping the event due to rain, but I had learned my lesson last time with Roddy Piper back in 2015.

I REALLY wanted to meet Roddy Piper at a convention in New York City in March 2015, but the NJ Transit bus we were taking was over an hour late, and we decided to go out to eat instead. We could catch him at his next appearance right??? Well Roddy Piper died a few months after that and we never got to meet him. So I vowed to never miss out on an opportunity to meet one of my childhood heroes.

Which was why we decided to brave the weather and Friday rush hour traffic. And we were glad we did. The rain scared off a lot of other people so the comic shop wasn’t crowded that night – and we had a bunch of time to talk to Gene about his career, about other wrestlers, and about his wonderful appearance on WWF Legends House. (Try to watch if you can – its a great series if you have ANY interest in 80s wrestling)

If you’ve been reading my page, you know I’m a cosplayer. That being said, my wife Jackie and I have Jesse “the Body” Ventura and Adrian Adonis costumes as part of our 80s wrestling legends cosplay group. So we decided to wear them to meet Gene.

We were a little worried as wrestlers aren’t really a cosplay-friendly environment, but I had done it at a Jesse Ventura book signing event (See my book Anatomy of a Cosplayer for that story) and it went over really well. So we brought it to meet Mean Gene

We need not have worried – Gene loved it. He took pictures for his personal social media and had a great time getting into character. It was a dream come true to have Gene Okerlund yell “Holy Balls” on tape at my Jesse Ventura. (see video below)…. It was a great night and I was so glad we went. I would have been miserable had we not gone and never got another chance to meet him.

Mean Gene was the voice of a huge part of my childhood, but he also was so nice to us that night. We will miss him tremendously.

A microphone Mean Gene Okerlund signed for me when we met him in November, 2018

Weird Coincidences: The Ducky Boys and Costuming.

Author James Hannon finds out that his Bronx/Ducky Boys World and his Costuming World are starting to blend together in very strange & coincidental ways.  This looks like a job for SuperGirl – who was instrumental in uncovering this string of coincidences.  Sound interesting?  Read on……

Well, so far every big project I’ve worked on has had at least one huge coincidence that made me realize I might be onto something really cool.

For my 2004 documentary, Out of Our Dens: The Richard & the Young Lions Story, while looking for Detroit names who remembered the band RYL, I came across legendary NYC radio DJ Pat St John – who unbeknownst to me was a legendary Detroit radio DJ before coming to NY and not only did he remember the band, he LOVED them. And while thats cool, thats not the coincidence  part.   The coincidence part is that when I spoke to him and invited him out to the bands rehearsal studio to see them play, we found out that Read more

A Tale of Two Comic Cons – Part II – NY Comic Con

Part 2 of a segment about two consecutive weekends where I got to met THREE of my childhood heroes, and have a lot of other cool things happen at a pair of conventions.  This is in addition to the weekend earlier where it was Superhero Nirvana down in Flemington, NJ– October is a great month to be a costumer!

Well, this one is about the big boy of conventions in the New York City area – NY Comic Con!  Last year there were 96,000 or so attendees – this year 105,000.  According to Wikipedia, its been going up steadily since its inception…It sold out both weekend days this year, so I dont know how much higher those numbers can get…

Year Attendees
NYCC 2006  33,000
NYCC 2007  49,000
NYCC 2008  60,000
NYCC 2009  77,000
NYCC 2010  96,000
NYCC 2011 105,000

Last year, Johnny Rox and I went to NYCC for a first time on the Saturday, and it was MOBBED (I’m not talking supermarket mobbed – I’m talking last train out of the apocalypse-mobbed!)…   We went in normal civilian clothes (as opposed to being costumed) and we had a great time.  Check out our experience last year here  (Lots of pix there too)

Anyhoo, so lets get on with the events of the individual 2011 days!

Friday Oct 14th, 2011 – Day #1 (for me)

Someone mentioned to me that since I was vacation on Friday, I should go to NYCC that day because it would be a LOT less crowded…  Nobody else was on vacation, so I had nobody else to go with, but I knew enough people there – so I headed into the city on Friday sans costume…

I got a call in the morning saying that the lines around the Javitz Center were insane but happily found out that these were people who had to pickup tickets.  Luckily I ordered my tix a few months ago and had them in hand, and didn’t need to wait in any lines..  But I got there after 2pm anyway to avoid the initial confusion that usually happen at these things.

I went in without any maps, or any idea what I wanted to do…  I said I wouldn’t do that again, and I actually created an agenda on the NYCC website, but I never printed it, nor did I remember anything on the list…   There’s a LOT to see, and there’s no way in hell I was gonna see 5% of what there was to see, so I just decided to let Fate be my guide…

So I walked… And walked…  And walked…  I zigged and zagged down aisles dodging human traffic looking for Read more

A Tale of Two Comic Cons – Part I – Garden State Comic Con

During the course of two weekends in October 2011, I got to met THREE of my childhood heroes, and have a lot of other cool things happen.  This is in addition to the weekend earlier where it was Superhero Nirvana down in Flemington, NJ – October is a great month to be a costumer!

This was originally going to be one blog entry, but there were too many pictures to split out between the two events, so I figured I’d make two so it would be easier for my readers to digest.

During the 2nd weekend of October, 2011, a small convention down in Cherry Hill, NJ happened. It was called the Garden State Comic Con and it was run by a company named ZoloWorld.   Its not the biggest con I’ve been to, and it certainly is going thru some growing pains, but you know what? I had a great experience there, so I’ll cut them slack on the problems faced…

For a small con,they had some big con names appearing – Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie, Hayden Panettiere – the cheerleader from Heroes, Davy Jones of the Monkees, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Rusty Goffe and Bonnie Piesse from the Star Wars franchise.

One particular attendee – Jackson Bostwick, most people probably wouldn’t recognize, but he was the reason I drove an hour and a half to Cherry Hill to see.  Mr Bostwick played the original Captain Marvel from the 1973 live action Saturday morning show “SHAZAM!” which was my favorite show from when I was 6 years old.  I  dare say that this show may have been the early inspiration for the costuming bug I developed years later.  I remember yelling “SHAZAM!” and tying a towel around my neck and pretending to be Captain Marvel (or as I call him Shazam).

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SuperHeroes for Hayley event – 10/1/2011

Hey it’s almost time for another round of WIDOMW (What I Did On My Vacation) posts.  Last year was a flurry of events including events promoting my new book (at the time) – Lost Boys of the Bronx– The Oral History of the Ducky Boys Gang.  ( c’mon you knew I had to  advertise it at least once LOL),  NY Comic Con, an Irish-American Writers party with some big names, a Halloween Parade, and a few charity events – where one sparked one of the greatest nicknames ever – the Peeping Princess…  Click the WIDOMV category over there on the right to read some of those adventures…

Starting Friday (10/7), I’m starting another 2-week October vacation.   Now if you’re from my regular day-job, I will be in Cuba without phone or email and please stop reading right now however.

Ok, good it’s just my friends now, so I can be honest – I’ve got a few events lined up – NY Comic Con,  the annual Irish-American Writers & Artists Awards party, my best friend Jeff’s show down at the Brighton Bar, and God knows what else…  Check my Facebook or Twitter page to see where I’ll be, and check back here after the fact and I’m sure I’ll have a report of what happened…

But my biggest plans for the next two weeks may not sound thrilling to some, but to me it’s heaven.  For the next two weeks, I’ll be splitting my time between my home-office and the local Scotch Plains library working on taking a big chunk out of my new book.

“What new book?” Well, you may want to check out this link for a little better background on me and my project.  But, the short version is that for the last few months I have been interviewing some really cool & interesting people who get dressed up in costumes for various reasons and finding out what makes them tick.   The reasons people put on a costume are a lot deeper than you would think.

Well anyway, speaking of really cool costumers, I attended a really cool costuming event yesterday (10/1/2011) down in Flemington, NJ called SuperHeroes for Hayley.  It was a charity event set up by HomeTown Club in Somerset, NJ to benefit the family of a 12 year old girl with brain cancer.   The Star Wars costuming group I belong to called the 501st Legion – NorthEast Remnant Garrison was requested by the fabulous Amber Love and we showed up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Saturday morning.

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Star Wars at the Cradle of Aviation Museum 6/18/2011

The 501st Legion visits a really cool museum in Garden City, Long Island called the Cradle of Aviation.

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

If you’ve been following me at all, you probably know that I’m a Star Wars geek, and that I go to local events dressed in a Star Wars costume.  Just check my photo albums here or on Facebook to see visual proof.  You could also read any of my numerous blogs by clicking 501st” or “Star Wars”  over there on the right under Categories=====>

The short version (for me anyway) to get you up to speed, is that I am a member of a group called the 501st Legion.  The 501st is a group of geeks like myself who like Star Wars to the point of spending the time and money of creating professional quality costumes of the “bad guy” characters in the movie.  (I also belong to the Rebel Legion which covers the costumes of the “good guys”.  This particular event, I was a TIE Pilot “bad guy”, so I’ll focus on the 501st angle).

I realize there is a tendency to think of people who costume as loner freaks, but most of the people I’ve met doing this are sane and  productive members of society – We have moms, dads, cops, firemen, lawyers, teachers, programmers, musicians, writers, artists, etc within our ranks.  If we weren’t wearing a Star Wars t-shirt, you probably wouldn’t be able to pick us out of a crowd.  LOL

One of my favorite quotes lately is “Just because my hobby is different than yours, doesn’t mean my hobby is any dumber than your hobby.”  Plus our hobby has an outlet that helps make the world a better place.  A large portion of the events we attend are charity events, and our costumed groups have helped raise well into the millions of dollars for various charities.   And we bring LOTS of smiles to the kids who come out to our events and see characters magically come off the screen into their world.  It’s a really cool feeling being part of this.

One thing that I should mention here is that it isn’t just Star Wars costuming groups that enjoy these benefits, but most costumers, be it Star Trek, Superheroes, Disney princesses, etc.  (People who know my “wannabe marketing genius” mind are laughing right now because they know what’s coming next)

I am currently working on a new book that will hopefully be finished in early 2012.  It will be all about the various costumers out there –  How they got into it, Why they do it How they got their cool costumes,What their families and friends think, Cool stories while costumed, and everything in between. So basically I am looking to hear from any costumers who are willing to tell their story for inclusion in the book.   So if you are a costumer, and have a cool story, email me at jameshannon@lantern-media.com and let me know. You can be any type of costumer (including anime, re-enactors, mascots, gorilla-grams, etc) – the only exclusion is that the book will be relatively family-friendly, so I probably won’t be using any adult-themed stories.  Nothing against it personally, but as wise costumer Amber Love wrote in her Amber Unmasked blog, “there’s a time and place for everything.”   :)

Ok, sorry for that tangent, back on target about the Cradle of Aviation event.

The Cradle of Aviation is a really cool museum on Museum Row in Garden City, Long Island.  They’ve got a whole lotta exhibits on the history of flight – with a slant towards Long Island’s involvement in it.  Grumman Corporation was a HUGE contributor of exhibits to the museum and there is some really cool stuff there like flight simulators, lunar landers, space suits, planes of all types, etc.  It even has a Fire Dept museum and historic carousel on the property – See the pics below for a taste of it..   HIGHLY recommended by your pal James…

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Green Lantern movie – A lifetime waiting to review!

Don’t worry, I’ll let you know in big bold letters when to stop reading if you don’t want any spoilers

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Well, after waiting my entire life for this, FINALLY a Green Lantern movie came out. In case you didn’t know, your old pal James (whose company is called LANTERN-media.com by the way) has been a HUGE Green Lantern fan since he was a kid.

Sure Superman and Spiderman were cool, but there was just something about having a ring that can construct kick-ass weapons based on the wearers imagination really appealed to this Irish kid from the Bronx – And the fact that he was “green” didn’t hurt LOL And every summer, I’ve watched as a bunch of less-deserving superheroes get their moment on the big screen.

Well not this Summer… Finally Green Lantern hit the theaters today!

I’ll be honest, I was pretty worried about this movie… Waiting an entire lifetime for something only to have it suck was a real concern. I really tried to keep my emotions in check about it – and by its release, I was fully expecting it to be more disappointing than the Green Hornet movie with Seth Rogan last year.

Which was a really good strategy on my part. Having low expectations meant that as long as Jack Black didn’t star as Hal Jordan (an actual possibility from a past script that still frightens me), it was probably NOT going to be a disappointing movie.

So we found a local theater and went to the matinee. Jackie wouldn’t have stayed awake for the car ride to the theater, let alone the whole movie, if we had went to the midnight showing, so we went to the first showing of the next day. We also decided to watch the Non-3D version since it was earlier
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You’re only as relevant as your next project…

Ok, so its been a few months since Lost Boys of the Bronx – The Oral History of the Ducky Boys Gang was published, and the marketing blitz has died down a little bit.   There’s still a few outstanding things there that might catch fire again, but the craziness of a book release is over and I can think straight again…  Or as much as I could do before the craziness anyway… :)

Instead of sitting back and enjoying the free time that I’ve been looking forward to, what does your friendly neighborhood author decide to do?   Get started on another project of course!!!

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Aircraft Carriers, Star Wars, friends and turkey sandwiches.

FYI:  I saw some Senator taking crap this morning on the news for sharing an innocent Halloween costume with his staffers, which kinda inspired the mini-rant at the beginning of this.  I’m sure they had something else on him, but I didn’t listen long enough to find out.   Before I saw that clip, I was just going to post a simple summary of yesterdays events on the USS Intrepid… Indulge me for a few paragraphs, and I’ll get right into that.

Outside of my home and work life, there are a couple of aspects to my life lately that people who don’t know me well are surprised by:

The biggest thing right now of course is that I’m the author of “Lost Boys of the Bronx: The Oral History of the Bronx“.  Other things that I do/have done are that I have an MBA (but who cares right?); I’m also a filmmaker who wrote, shot & directed the documentary “Out of Our Dens: The Richard and the Young Lions Story”; and I’ve done music videos for artists such as The Grip Weeds, The RiffSurfers, and Shelly Riff.  If you scroll thru my blog and/or Facebook page, you will find lots of references to those aspects of my life.

But what people who only know me from the aspects of my life above REALLY get shocked about is the aspect that this blog entry will cover.

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WIDOMV 2010 – Part 3- Peeping Princess Leia

WIDOMV 2010 = What I Did On My Vacation 2010

Subtitled: Peeping Princess Leia traumatizes a civilian in distress

Ok, this installment will be a bit shorter than the rest.   This covers the first week of my vacation and after NY Comic Con, it was time to rest a bit, hit the beach in the fall (a GREAT time to hit the beach) an do a lot of behind-the-scenes promotional stuff for my  book

No time like the present for a shameless plug for the book…   I wrote a book called Lost Boys of the Bronx: The Oral History of the Ducky Boys Gang – It is about the real-life exploits of the gang that was so terrifying in the 1979 movie “The Wanderers” – they also happened to roam the neighborhood I grew up in in the early 1960s.

You can find more out about the book at its Facebook Fan Page or you can pick up a copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  You can also pick up a signed copy directly from me at Lantern-Media.com

Ok, enough with the shameless plug, lets get onto the story you’ve been waiting to hear – How did sweet little Princess Leia traumatize some poor innocent soul at a charity event?

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WIDOMV 2010 – Part 2 – NY Comic Con with Johnny Rox

WIDOMV 2010 = What I Did On My Vacation 2010

Subtitled: Spandex babes and getting robbed by the Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno.

Like I said in Part 1 of this series of my blog entries, this was originally going to be one document, but it got really long, and nobody was going to read that much no matter how much they like the way I write LOL

This entry is not so much Ducky Boys gang related, but more about one of my hobbies.   If you don’t know already, I am a member of the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion groups which are Star Wars costuming groups.  Now before you write them off as a bunch of geeks and nerds, realize that these groups do a helluva lot of good.   During this particular series of blogs, you will see that I have gone to two charity events to entertain the crowds and help raise money for good causes like the Miracle Walk and Safe in Hunterdon woman’s shelter in NJ.  But you’ll see that in later version of this series of blogs.

Now that being said, this particular blog is purely about geek nirvana…  And getting robbed by Lou Ferrigno…

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